I slept comfortably and warm through a cold night and very cold morning There was a fine frost on my tent when I took courage and poked my head out. There was a little high cloud overhead. We were told to stay in bed so I didn’t get up until 07.45.
Breakfast was at 09.00 and consisted of a plate of steaming hot porridge, muesli, which I added to the porridge to make it a bit more interesting, scrambled egg with chopped bacon in it and some bread. All the usual spreads were available including Vegemite.
We didn’t need the frozen edges of the stream to tell us it was cold
– our fingers and toes already knew.
To warm up we left the crew to pack up camp and started walking.
This is when you feel small in such a vast landscape.
The vehicles picked us up and we drove on to the village of Urgamal. (Lat. 48º 31’ E, Long. 94º 17’ N) The dusty wide main street was lined with colourful homes and shops.
A ‘corner store’ Mongolian style.
For us, the bare essentials were available, like sweets, chips, potatoes and toothpaste!
Otherwise for the locals, basic household needs were on the shelves.
Notices were posted on this town board.
Unfortunately I have no idea of what they said… my Mongolian is not so good!
Our convoy of vehicles just stopped in the middle of the street
where they caused no disruption at all.
Our arrival created some interest for the locals.
Many families prefer to live in their gers in their backyards
Back into our vehicles after stocking up on a few essentials for ourselves and on the catering side of things and off we headed again. We stopped at a Turkic stone, all wrapped up in a triangular fence decorated with a couple of blue scarfs called ‘Khata’, which originated in Tibetan Buddhism, are symbolic of purity and compassion. Mongolian khata are usually blue which depicts the sky. Turkic stones date back millennia and are usually associated with burial sites.
It is a dusty landscape!
The main beast of burden for Mongolian nomads is the Bactrian camel.
Unlike the one hump Arabian dromedary camels, Bactrian camels have two humps. The humps store fat which can be converted to water and energy when sustenance is not available. As their fat is depleted, the humps become somewhat floppy and flabby. They can endure long periods of travel without water, even in harsh dry conditions like these.
Bactrian camels have thick, shaggy coats that protect them in winter. This ‘wool’ is shed as the summer temperatures rise. Bactrians rarely sweat. This helps them conserve fluids for long periods of time. During the long winters, they may take enough moisture from plants to keep them going for several weeks without water. But, when a camel does get a chance to refill with water, it can drink up to 135 litres (30 gallons) in a very short space of time.
Perhaps not the most attractive of beasts but they have adapted to survive. Their nostrils close to keep sand at bay. Their bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes protect their eyes.
During this trek, we would come to welcome the camels assistance in carrying our gear to places cars cannot go! Their big, flat footpads help them to cross both rough rocky terrain and shifting desert sands without sinking under the weight of heavy packs.
At around 15.00, we finally stopped for lunch at this attractive place on the edge of Khyargas Nuur (lake). Here we made the acquaintance of the other beast of burden in Mongolia, the sturdy Mongolian horse.
Horses are a practical necessity in the life of Mongolian herdsmen. It’s said that there are many more horses in Mongolia than there are people. Horses are not expensive to care for as they are just allowed to graze, summer and winter… no fuss. Saddles are often colourful.
While I checked out the horses, the horseman relaxed on the stony ground.
Much mended and nailed up boots. I think he has lost his soul! Not many shoe shops around here.
This was one photo op. I couldn’t miss.
I thought that I might have to ride one of these horses later in the trek… perhaps.
But more of that anon
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